New parents with premature babies benefit from tailored help to prepare them to bring their child home from hospital, according to a UK study.
Bristol University researchers examined the effects of a parent-orientated discharge planning process, known as the Train-to Home intervention.
“Any increase in parental confidence to care for their baby could reduce their length of stay in hospital”
More than 90% of babies born at 27 weeks or more gestation survive, and are discharged after time in neonatal intensive care and high dependency and special care units, noted the researchers. They highlighted that many parents returning home felt unprepared and lack the confidence to care for their baby, often finding themselves seeking emergency and out-of-hours care.
They said the Train-to-Home aimed to increase parents’ confidence in caring for their baby, thereby reducing hospital stay and lessening the use of healthcare services after discharge.
The intervention estimates the baby’s likely discharge date and displays it on a train graphic with five labelled carriages – breathing, feeding, growth, temperature and sleeping.
The researchers recruited parents of babies born between 27 and 33 weeks from four neonatal units in South West England.
Parents were given gestation-specific leaflets with questions to discuss with staff based on the five labels, to help improve their preparedness for returning home.
The researchers investigated the effects of the intervention during two 11-month periods before and after its implementation.
They concluded the intervention helped parents to better understand their baby’s needs and there were fewer visits to accident and emergency departments after going home.
Support project helps parents of premature babies
“Parents reported that the Train-to-Home improved understanding of their baby’s progress and their preparedness for discharge,” said the study authors.
“The number of post-discharge visits to emergency departments fell from 31 to 20,” they said in the journal BMJ Open.
Lead researcher Professor Peter Fleming, from the university’s School of Social and Community Medicine, said: “Any increase in parental confidence to care for their baby could reduce their length of stay in hospital and possibly reduce healthcare resource use after discharge.
“Our research shows that Train-to-Home can contribute to family-centred care,” he added.
The project was funded by the National Institute for Health Research Health Services and Delivery Research programme.
Home-from-hospital project helps parents of premature babies